|Naomi Ackie on an alien space horse. Did she ever ride side-saddle in the film itself?|
By now, I suspect that everyone who has any intention of seeing The Rise of Skywalker will have done so, and it is safe to talk about the film in very general terms.
I have seen every Star Wars film in the cinema upon its release, except for The Last Jedi. There was no particular reason for that omission, other than that it came out at a busy period and by the time I felt motivated to see it, it was no longer showing anywhere near me. When I eventually watched it on DVD, I rather enjoyed it, and felt sorry that I had not seen it on a bigger screen. I also rather enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker, and was pleased to have made the effort. It didn't leave me blown away but I thought it was perfectly likeable on its own terms and seemed to conclude the character arcs developed in the last two films quite well. Far too much has been made of how one film or another has polarised fans, to the extent that fans of The Last Jedi hate The Rise of Skywalker and so on. I wonder who are these over-invested fans? Perhaps I didn't remember enough of the Last Jedi to be annoyed at how the newer film ignored it or contradicted it (or The Force Awakens, for that matter) but from my disinterested position as an average, mildly interested fan of the Star Wars franchise, The Rise... just felt like any typical sequel, picking up on vaguely remembered characters and threads from some film I saw among many other films. I've grown to like the new characters and their actors, and enjoyed seeing some of the older faces make their (predicable but entirely likable) cameos. What's not to enjoy about all this?
I feel as if I have been here before, though. I saw Star Wars in 1978, on my twelth birthday. In 1980, when The Empire Strikes Back came out, I (and my friend Dave) took the train to Swansea to see it. By the time Return of the Jedi arrived in 1983, I was seventeen and going to pubs. It was perfectly all right - the speeder bikes were great! - but I never took to it with the same enthusiasm as I'd had for the earlier films. Still, that was that: although Lucas had talked about making more films, none were on the horizon and Star Wars seemed to belong to the last decade, ill at ease among the likes of Blade Runner. Years later, when the last of the prequel films rolled around (and did I really see Revenge of the Sith in the cinema? I'm not so sure now) I don't think anyone believed that there would ever be seventh, eighth and ninth installments. The Emperor was dead at the end of Return of the Jedi - hadn't the good guys won once and for all? I therefore wouldn't be at all surprised if the younger actors of the new films don't return to reprise their roles as elder figures, fifteen or twenty years from now, as the Empire refuses to stay dead and buried.